Report: “Travel to Learn: The Influence of Cultural Distance on Competence Development in Educational Travel”
Author: Erik van ’t Klooster
Organization: Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University
Summary: Advocates of study abroad tout its advantages to students, saying it arms them with cultural skills critical in a global workplace. But new research from the Rotterdam School of Management suggests this isn’t always so.
Where students go and for how long can make a difference, a study of 1,000 study-abroad students and alumni found. Those who went to lower-income or socialist countries, especially in Africa, Asia, and South America, saw fewer cultural and professional benefits. That may be because it was more difficult for the students to appreciate the host culture and interact with local residents. Students who travel abroad for shorter periods or on programs in which they mainly interact with other study-abroad students may also benefit less.
Bottom Line: As more American students travel abroad for short-term programs or to off-the-beaten-path destinations, educators may need to help them develop strategies to connect with host-country residents and gain meaningful cultural and professional skills.